Slow cooker beef curry, Slimming World friendly

13 Aug

Since my last post I have been voted Slimming World Woman of the Year for my group. I am completely overwhelmed and humbled that someone would even think of nominating me. As I stood at the front of group with five other amazing nominees it gave me time to take stock and reflect on my slimming journey and the lovely friends I have shared it with.  Some of my closest friends will know I have had a lifelong battle with my weight.  I weighed in at 9.5 lbs at birth and it was all downhill from there. I think my Father insisting I clear my plate before I could leave the table didn’t help any or that my wonderful, loyal husband flatly denying for forty-three years that my bum  looked big in clothes when I asked, bless him.

As you may have gathered, I love cooking but it wasn’t until I started following Slimming World that I realised just how much fat my food hero chefs used in their recipes.  It has been a challenge to adapt those recipes and, to my absolute amazement, the finished dishes are delicious and much healthier. I admit I am not over keen on the low-calorie spray that is recommended to replace oil and it isn’t always successful for frying some foods, so I often use a normal oil spray but limit the number of sprays and count the Syns. When a recipe is for a few people the individual Syns are negligible so as long as they are counted into my daily allowance it isn’t a problem.

Another great love of mine are cooking gadgets. I have recently invested in a slow cooker and could not wait to try it out. This is my first recipe using it. The curry was bubbling gently away all day and was ready for when I returned from my Group meeting. The house smelled divine and the curry was delicious so a great success.  Here is the recipe. It was adapted from a recipe on BBC Food so that it is Slimming World friendly. By my calculations this works out about two Syns for the whole recipe so only half a Syn if used for four people.

Slow-cooker beef curry                          Serves 4

  • Spray sunflower oil or Frylight
  • 800g/1lb 12oz beef braising steak cut into 2.5cm/1in pieces
  • 2 brown onions, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 red chillies, finely chopped, plus extra to taste
  • 2.5cm/1in piece fresh root ginger
  • 4 tsp ground cumin
  • 4 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 2 x 400g/14oz can chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 200g/7oz 0% fat Greek natural yogurt
  1. Spray a nonstick frying pan with the oil or Frylight and fry the beef in batches over a medium to high heat until browned all over. This will take about 4 minutes for each pan.  The aim is to sear the meat so don’t overfill the pan. Transfer to the slow-cooker.
  2. Spray the pan again, lower the heat and fry the onions for about 5 minutes until they have softened slightly. Add the chillies, garlic and ginger and fry for 2 minutes more, then add the spices and fry for 1 more minute. If the pan appears to be drying out add a little water rather than more oil. Transfer to the slow-cooker.
  3. Add the tomatoes to the slow-cooker plus one empty can filled with water. Mix well then cover and cook on a low setting for 8 hours.
  4. Whisk the yogurt in a bowl and add 50 ml of hot water very slowly whisking all the time. This will stop it curdling when you add it to the curry.  Add the yogurt, mixing continually, to the curry. Add the garam masala and season with salt to taste. If you want the curry a little hotter add a little more chilli.  Cook for a further 30 minutes then serve with boiled rice and, if you like, a side salad.

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Seafood spaghetti

5 Jul

It’s been over two years since I last posted on my blog, partly due to illness. As part of my recovery plan I decided to tackle my health head on and get into peak fitness. Eighteen months later and nearly three stone lighter, thanks to Slimming World, I am just about there.

So, today is a new beginning for my blog. I will not be posting as often as before and will only be posting recipes I have made up myself, using the principles of Slimming World. I’ve been dying to try this recipe which has been floating around in my head ever since I first had a seafood pasta dish in a local restaurant. I’ve used all fresh ingredients and the finished dish was delicious, even if I do say so myself. I’m sure some of my Italian friends will be appalled but hope they will forgive me some creative inspiration. The chilli gives a bit of a kick but doesn’t overpower the dish and can be omitted if you like. Likewise, mix and match the seafood to suit your own personal taste. Cooking is about adventure, having fun and taking a few risks. Go for it, I’m sure it will turn out well but if not there is always the chippy.

Seafood spaghetti.         Serves 2 – 3

  • Spray Olive oil or Frylight
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 large or 2 small cloves garlic, crushed
  • 4 small tomatoes, roughly chopped and seeds discarded
  • 1 good pinch dried chilli flakes (option all)
  • 50 mls dry white wine
  • small bunch basil, leaves roughly chopped
  • 125g raw king prawns
  • 125g cooked mussels
  • 1 small jar Calamari antipasti, drained and rinsed
  • Dried spaghetti, enough for 2-3 people
  1. Spray a large skillet or nonstick frying pan with oil or Frylight. Heat gently then add the onion and garlic. Fry over a medium heat for about 10 minutes until the onion is soft but not coloured.
  2. In the meantime cook the pasta in boiling salted water.
  3. Add the tomatoes and continue to fry for about 5 minutes until softened then add the wine and cook for a couple of minutes more.  Add the prawns and fry for 5 minutes until pink and cooked through. Add the chopped basil, mussels and squid. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Mix gently and cook over a low heat until everything is warmed through.
  4. Drain the spaghetti, reserving some of the cooking liquid, and add to the seafood. Toss everything together, adding a little of the reserved cooking liquid if it looks too dry.

 

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Baked Sea Bass with a mild curried ratatouille

29 Mar

imageMy inspiration for this recipe was from the menu of one of our favourite restaurants, 15 in Caleta De Fuste in Fuerteventura. There are fifteen main courses on offer, ordered in customer preference. All of the choices are superb but a particular favourite of mine is the sea bass. I tried to recreate the lovely flavours in my own recipe and, whilst there were obvious differences, I was very pleased with my results and will definitely be making this again.

Baked sea bass with a mild curried ratatouille      Serves 2

  • Low calorie spray oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 large courgette, quartered lengthways, deseeded and sliced
  • 125g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 large or 2 small ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 50 ml water
  • 100g low fat creme fraiche
  • 1 tsp sweet mango chutney
  • 1 tsp hot curry paste
  • 2 sea bass, descaled, gutted and fins removed
  • juice half a lemon
  • salt and black pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 190c/170c fan/gas 6.
  2. Spray some oil into a nonstick frying pan. Add the onion and cook over a low to medium heat for about 10 minutes until soft but not coloured. Add the garlic for the last minute.
  3. add the chopped courgette and continue frying gently for 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and fry for a further 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and season lightly. Cook for about 3 minutes. Add about 50ml of water and mix well. Continue cooking until all vegetables are tender.
  4. In the meantime, wash and dry the sea bass. Place in an oven dish. Score each side with a knife and squeeze over the lemon juice. Season with salt and black pepper and spray with low calorie olive oil. Bake in the oven until cooked through (about 25 to 30 minutes.
  5. Mix the creme fraiche, mango chutney and curry paste together, adjusting to suit personal taste. Stir into the ratatouille gradually, a spoonful at a time and mix in until you have a creamy consistency (about 3 tbsp). Adjust seasoning.
  6. Serve the sea bass with the ratatouille on the side and some boiled new potatoes if you like.

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Chunky chilli, spicy and low in calories!

26 Feb

 How often do people start a weight loss programme and give in because the food is tasteless and boring.  This dish is just what the doctor ordered, Chili con carne!  I am using another Judith Wills recipe from her book of low fat meals, and I have made it more times than I can remember.  I love the rich flavour and the chunks of beef that gives a much better texture than mince, more commonly used in chilli.  I’m making a huge pan full today, enough for our dinner, meals on wheels for my kids and, hopefully, some left over to freeze for another day.  It’s great served with jacket potatoes, topped with grated cheddar, or simply with rice and maybe a side salad.

Chilli con carne is simply a spicy stew, derived from the Spanish Chilli con carne, and is the official dish of Texas.  In the 1880’s, brightly dressed Hispanic women known as ‘chili queens’ would light fires of wood or charcoal around downtown San Antonio, in areas where the public were likely to gather, and reheat huge cauldrons of precooked chili to serve to passers-by.  The aromas coming from their pots was a potent sales pitch and soon they were accompanied by groups of musicians to make it more of a carnival atmosphere.  In 1937, new sanitary laws came into force, requiring the chili queens to adhere to the same standards as restaurants.  I can hear all the shouts of ‘Health and Safety spoil things again!’.  The street cuisine disappeared overnight, although there was a brief remission in 1939, the laws were made permanent in 1943.

Last year we grew chillies for the first time.  If you have ever done this, you will know how profuse the chillies are on the plant.  I think we must have had at least one hundred.  If you find yourself in the same boat, and don’t know what to do with them, they freeze beautifully, whole, exactly as they are when you pick them.  When you are ready to use simply take a frozen chilli out and it can be used whole, sliced or chopped from frozen.  If you don’t want the seeds, simply knock them out of the frozen slices before you chop.

There are an incredible number of recipes to be found for Chilli con carne, most of which contain beans and tomatoes.  This is my favourite and I promise, you will never know it is low-calorie!  For those on a Slimming World diet, by my calculations, free if you use the spray oil and only 3 for people if you measure the oil accurately.

 

Chilli con carne     Serves 4

  • 1.5 tsp groundnut oil or Fry light sunflower oil spray 
  • 400g (about 1 lb) braising steak, trimmed of fat and sinews, and cut into about 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 red pepper. deseeded and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 fresh red jalapeno chillies, chopped (leave the seeds in if you like your chilli hot)
  • 1 tsp Tabasco sauce
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 400g can red kidney beans, drained
  • 250ml beef stock
  • salt and black pepper
  • Chopped coriander to serve (optional)
  1. Heat half the oil in a large, lidded, non-stick pan and fry the meat over a high heat until brown all over.  Do this in batches rather than overfill the pan as the meat will steam rather than fry.  Remove the meat with a slotted spoon and reserve.
  2. Add the rest of the oil, reduce the heat and saute the onion, garlic, chillies and pepper for 10 minutes.  Stir occasionally and be careful they do not burn.
  3. Add the paprika, Tabasco and cumin, stir and cook for 1 minute more.
  4. Pour in the tomatoes, tomato puree, beans, stock and seasoning, stir well, bring to the boil then reduce the heat to low.  Return the meat to the pan, check for seasoning and ‘hotness’ then cover and simmer for 2 – 2.5 hours until the sauce is thick and rich and everything is tender.

NB:  The heat of the chilli will mature during cooking so when you test for ‘hotness’ you will need to account for this.  It is better to add a bit more Tabasco at the end than try to reduce the heat, which is almost impossible. 

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Fried fish with ginger noodles

18 Feb

imageI was a bit concerned when I made this as my husband hates batter or anything fried in breadcrumbs. In actual fact, this was nothing like a batter. The rice flour merely coats the fish to hold it together when you are frying it and the outcome is absolutely delicious.  It is an incredibly easy dish to prepare, you just need to remember to start early enough so you have time to marinade the fish before cooking.

The recipe uses rice flour.  Rice flour is a form of flour made from finely milled rice. It is a particularly good substitute for wheat flour, which causes irritation in the digestive systems of those who are gluten-intolerant. Rice flour is also used as a thickening agent in recipes that are refrigerated or frozen since it inhibits liquid separation.  Having spent a lot of time in abroad I realise that not all ingredients are readily available everywhere. If you can’t get rice flour try substituting corn flour, I’m sure you will get a similar result.

As with all Stir-fry recipes it pays to prepare all your ingredients before you start cooking to ensure the textures are correct and ingredients are not overcooked.

I found the recipe in an Olive cookery magazine but it is not available on their website so I have written it out below.

Stir-fried fish and ginger noodles                          Serves 4 (depending on appetite)

  • 400g skinned fish fillets (I used cod as it is thick and holds together well)
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp rice flour
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp golden caster sugar
  • 1 tsp shrimp paste
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 8 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 5 cm piece of root ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 large red chilli seeded and chopped
  • 50g mangetout, finely sliced
  • a bunch spring onions, finely sliced
  • 200g dried egg thread noodles
  1. Remove any stray bones from the fish and cut into 2 inch pieces. Put in a shallow dish and pour over the soy sauce. Marinate for 30 minutes.
  2. Remove the fish from the dish and reserve the soy sauce. Dust lightly with the rice flour.
  3. Whisk the fish sauce, sugar, shrimp paste, lime juice and reserved soy sauce together until the sugar has dissolved.
  4. Heat 6 tbsp of the oil in a wok over a medium heat. When hot, add the fish in batches and fry for 2 -3 minutes per batch, turning so they become crisp and golden on all sides. Remove and drain on kitchen paper.
  5. Discard the oil and wipe the pan.  Return to the heat and add the remaining 2 tbsp of oil.
  6. Add the ginger, garlic and chilli and fry for 1 minute until fragrant. Be careful not to burn!
  7. Add the mange tout and spring onions, stir well then add the sauce and a splash of water to make a thick sauce.
  8. Simmer for 1 minute then stir in the fish pieces carefully so as not to break up and warm through over a low heat for 2 -3 minutes.
  9. In the meantime, cook the noodles as per packet instructions. Drain well and serve, topped with the fish stir-fry.

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Thai red chicken curry – mild and delicious

17 Oct

DSCI0063If you like spicy food but don’t like the heat then this curry is perfect for you.  It is mild and creamy and full of wonderful flavours.

The recipe uses rapeseed or vegetable oil and I thought, it would be good to find out a bit more about ‘fats’.

All fats are high in calories, so it’s important to bear this in mind if you are watching your weight. However, your body does need to have some fats.  The most common concern, after weight gain, about eating fats is the effect they have on your heart. Here is what the British Heart  Foundation has to say on the matter.

‘In terms of your heart, it’s important to think about the type of fat you are eating.

Swap saturated fats for unsaturated fats

Butter, lard, ghee, palm oil and coconut oil are all high in saturated fat.  Too much saturated fat can increase the amount of cholesterol in the blood, which can increase the risk of developing coronary heart disease. Where possible replace saturated fats with small amounts of monounsaturated  and polyunsaturated fats.

Avoid trans fats

Avoid these wherever possible. These fats are most likely to be found in foods such as biscuits, cakes, pastries and deep-fried foods.  Trans fats occur naturally in small amounts in dairy foods and meat, however it is the industrially produced trans fats which have a similar effect to saturated fat, as they can increase the amount of cholesterol in your blood.

Have monounsaturated fats in small amounts

Olive oil, rapeseed oil and spreads which are made from these oils, as well as some nuts and seeds, are all high in monounsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats can help to maintain healthy cholesterol levels.

Have polyunsaturated fats in small amounts

Soya, vegetable and sunflower oils, spreads made from these oils, nuts and seeds like walnuts and sesame seeds, and oily fish all contain polyunsaturated fats. Polyunsaturated fats help to maintain healthy cholesterol levels and provide essential fatty acids.

Top tips to help you reduce your saturated fat

  • Swap butter, lard, ghee and coconut and palm oils with small amounts of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, such as olive, rapeseed or sunflower oils and spreads.
  • Choose lean cuts of meat and make sure you trim any excess fat and remove the skin from chicken and turkey.
  • Instead of pouring oils straight from the bottle, use a spray oil or measure out your oils with ateaspoon.
  • Read food labels to help you make choices that are lower in saturated fat.
  • Opt to grillbakesteamboil or poach your foods.
  • Make your own salad dressings using ingredients like balsamic vinegar, low-fat yoghurt, lemon juice, and herbs, with a dash of olive oil.
  • Use semi-skimmed1% or skimmed milk rather than whole or condensed milk.
  • Cottage cheesericotta and extra light soft cheese are examples of low-fat cheese options. Remember that many cheeses are high in saturated fat so keep your portions small – matchbox sized. Opt for strongly flavoured varieties and grate it to make a little go a long way.’

http://www.bhf.org.uk/heart-health/prevention/healthy-eating/saturated-fat.aspx

It looks like eating healthily will also help us lose weight.  Bonus!

Here is the recipe.

Thai red Chicken curry                             Serves 4

  • 2 tbsp rapreseed oil
  • 2 banana shallots, sliced
  • 3 – 4 chicken breasts, skin removed and cut into strips
  • 2 tbsp red thai curry paste
  • 1 x 400g can coconut milk
  • 150ml chicken stock
  • 1.5 tbsp Thai fish sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 red pepper, deseeded and sliced
  • 100g baby spinach leaves
  • juice of half a lime
  • small bunch of basil, leaves torn
  • small bunch coriander, chopped
  1. Heat the oil in a wok and fry the shallots for a couple of minutes until softened.  add the chicken and fry for 5 minutes or until lightly brown all over.
  2. Stir in the curry paste and cook for 1 minute then add the coconut milk, stock, fish sauce and sugar. Stir then add the red pepper. Simmer for 15 minutes.
  3. You can freeze the curry at this stage if you want, in rigid containers.  Defrost thoroughly and ensure it is heated through then continue with stage four.
  4. Add the spinach, lime juice and herbs, mix to combine then cook for 1 minute.  Serve with boiled rice.

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Sausage hash with fried egg

13 Oct

DSCI0342There are times when I have lots of bits and pieces of food left in the fridge that need to use up and I made this recipe for just such an occasion.  It is almost like a breakfast in one pan as it contains all the thinks I like for a good old English Breakfast but it is all cooked together. We had it for lunch one day but I am sure it would make a great brunch or breakfast dish.

Did you know there is actually an English Breakfast Society?  This is what they have to say about the history of the English Breakfast.

 

The full English breakfast is a centuries old British tradition which dates back to the early 1800’s, when the Victorians first perfected the art of eating breakfast and elevated the most important meal of the day into an art form.

When the Victorians combined tradition with the most important meal of the day, they created a national dish, one that is widely loved to this day and regularly enjoyed by millions of English breakfast lovers all over the planet.

The breakfast table was an opportunity to display the wealth of the estate and the quality of the meats, vegetables and ingredients produced on the surrounding land and a chance to show off the skills of the cooks who prepared a vast selection of typical English breakfast dishes every morning, for the residents and guests of the house.

The gentry used to love their breakfast feasts and in the old Anglo-Saxon tradition of hospitality, used to provide hearty full breakfasts for their visiting friends, relatives and neighbors. The gentry used to enjoy a full breakfast before they went out to hunt, before a long journey, the morning after their parties and when reading the mail and periodicals of the day.

Breakfast served in these country houses was made up of ingredients sourced from farmers based on the estate, the meats were cured and cooked using regional recipes and methods. Their breakfasts were made up of traditional English dishes, cooked in a typical English way and it was here that the idea of the traditional English breakfast began.

This recipe may not fit in with their ideals but it is definitely delicious.

Sausage hash with fried egg               Serves 2

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 8 new potatoes cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 2 good quality sausages of your choice
  • 3 rashes of unsmoked streaky bacon
  • 1/2 green chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
  • 1/2 red pepper, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • small handful of parsley, chopped
  • salt and black pepper
  1. Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan and gently fry the potato for 10 minutes until it is starting to soften and go golden.
  2. Skin the sausages and break up the meat into small nuggets. Add to the potato.
  3. Using scissors, snip the bacon into thin slices and add to the pan along with the onion, chilli and pepper.
  4. Stir to combine them all and continue to cook until the vegetables are tender and the sausage cooked through.
  5. Add the parsley and season to taste. Mix carefully.
  6. In a separate pan fry two eggs.
  7. Serve the hash immediately, divided between two plates with an egg on top of each.

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